Interior of Alden Ewell Free Library from early 1900s
The Alden Ewell Free Library

On April 1, 1901, a group of ninety interested village of Alden citizens gathered together at the Baptist Church for the purpose of starting a library association. The idea was carried with the group, and twenty-seven of those attending immediately pledged subscriptions. It was agreed that a second meeting would be held later in the month for the purpose of electing board members and further organizing the group, and the Association of the Alden library was born.

On April 28, the first Board of Trustees was selected: a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and trustee were elected for terms of one to five years each. The Association then started soliciting materials for their library and began to scout around the village for specific locations.

By the following January, the Association was ready to open their brand new library in rented rooms in the Pride house on Main Street. An inaugural public reception was held on the 26th, welcoming patrons to its 600-volume collection. The subscribers list was up to ninety-five, and its hours of operation were Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons and evenings. Mrs. Albert Talamo was its first librarian.

The Alden Free Library applied for and was granted a provisional five-year charter by the University of the State of New York in May 1902. The Library Association, in addition to subscription and grant monies, held numerous events year round to raise funds. Dances, luncheons, and ice cream socials were only a few of their festive fundraisers.

By 1903, the Library had already outgrown its rented rooms in the Pride house and moved into another building east toward Broadway. The Association created the position of Library Superintendent to oversee the library and its librarians and formed a Book Committee to designate and maintain a list of books appropriate for the library. In March of 1906, the Board applied for and was granted a permanent charter for the library.

Architect's drawing of the proposed library
Architectural drawing of the proposed library

At their January 1913 meeting, the Board entertained a proposition from Colonel Joseph E. Ewell and his wife Caroline. The two had recently lost their only daughter to illness, and wanted to create a lasting memorial to her in their home town. Colonel and Mrs. Ewell wished to donate a brand new library building to be built in the heart of the village of Alden, just down the road from its rented rooms. In exchange for the new library, the Board and residents of Alden agreed to a number of conditions. The first was that the library’s name would be changed to Ewell Free Library. A picture of Florence Josephine Ewell, the Ewell’s daughter, would be printed on all of the library’s paper goods, from stationary to book plates. Finally, a tax would be assessed each year to village residents that would go specifically to the library.

Both the Board and the residents of the village were quick to accept the Ewell’s generous offer.

Architect Otis Dockstader of Elmira, New York was selected to design the library, and its cornerstone was laid in June 1913. By May 28, 1914, the Ewell Free Library was officially dedicated, and a few days later it was open for business.

Marble tablet with library's first board of trustees
The Library Board when the new building first opened.

The new library building was built in the Beaux Arts Classical style of Warsaw bluestone and Indiana limestone with striking red tile roof. Its fluted columns and Corinthian capitals frame a beautiful leaded glass window above the front door that reads, “In Loving Memory of Florence Josephine Ewell.” The two-story library had four open fireplaces, three reading rooms, a stock room, an assembly hall, and a trustee’s room. Miss Ellen Parker was the first librarian in the new building, which also had a skylight (which was later covered up when electricity was put into the building) above the circulation desk.

The library has a “sister library” also designed by Dockstander in Friendship, NY that was dedicated in 1912.

In 1942, the Board decided that the library would participate in the Victory book campaign. Nearly two hundred books were sent from Alden as a part of that effort. The Board also allowed the Office of Civil Defense and the Red Cross to use its downstairs rooms for war instruction and other related business.

In later years, the downstairs also housed town and village offices, a preschool, and for a memorable few months, two second grade classrooms from the newly expanded Alden Central School District. In 1951, the Association decided to become a part of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library as a contracting library, and its name became the Alden Ewell Free Library.

Exterior of Alden Ewell Free Library
The library today

To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an addition with an elevator and upstairs public restroom was added to the back of the building in 1995. In 2009, the downstairs was renovated into a children’s area with two computers and all of the juvenile fiction and nonfiction titles, along with room for story time, playing, and crafts. The most recent renovations were to the downstairs meeting room, which was recently repainted and has brand new lighting and floors. In November of 2016, it was re-dedicated as the Taylor Room, in honor of two long-time, dedicated Association members.

Our history continues…will you be a part of it? Become a member today!